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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Being Bold with God

"Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?" Ex 32:11

Moses' intimacy with God amazes us. Never afraid to negotiate with God, even and especially when the Jews turn away from God after being freed from the oppression of the Egyptians, Moses keeps reminding God of his promises to never abandon his people. Sure of God's mercy, Moses challenges God to act with compassion even when the Jews build a molten calf and worship it. Remarkably, despite the idolatry of the Jewish people, God listens.

The listening God we encounter in the scripture is anxious for us to repent and renew ourselves, and as Moses demonstrates, seems only too ready to respond when we ask for help. Like the Forgiving Father in the Gospel (Lk 15: 11-32), God rushes out to meet us at the first sign of our guilt and sorrow. More, God cannot do enough for us when we repent. God puts cloaks around our cold shoulders, rings on our broken fingers, and sandals of our battered feet to demonstrate how gratified he is to embrace us and welcome us home.

Intimacy with God will get us everywhere. When, no matter how dark life feels or how disturbed we are by the direction our life has taken, we pray, listen and take time for God, God will hear and respond to us in ways we could never imagine. Lent reminds to pray, fast and give alms. Any of these penances demonstrates our desire for God and will surely get a response.

Today, imagine God rushing out to meet you in the dark.

What have been your experiences of God's enfolding love?

Friday, September 9, 2016

God as Rock

"That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built." Lk 6:48

What is the rock upon which we are to build our lives? God's fidelity is a good place to start. Though it seems natural to think about a sound financial footing and doing what we can do assure ourselves of good health, these are not the rocks about which Luke speaks. God's living word must be the foundation of our lives, and God's word is true, lasting and clear. 

When we listen and act on God's word, Luke assures us that we are building on rock, not sand, but the struggle continues. At times, we interpret God's word in ways that do a disservice to the power of the word. When the gospel tells us to ask for whatever we want and need it will be given to us, we have to be cautious. Jesus is not frivolous. We cannot pray for a new car and expect it to be delivered the next day. Rather, the scripture demands that we pray for the strength to do whatever it is that will foster God's reign. When we pray to be strengthened for this role, we can be sure of a response.

Today, ask God to sustain you along the path of faith.

What gifts has God given you when you asked for help?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

St Peter Claver

"I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his Body, which is the Church." Col 1:24-25

People of a certain age were introduced to the saints as children, and St Peter Claver captured my imagination when he wrote, "I must dedicate myself to the service of God until death, on the understanding that I am like a slave." That our religion teacher was Fr Peter Claver Eich also helped. A smiling and athletic friar priest, Fr Peter Claver encouraged everyone he met with a boundless energy and kind spirit. I wanted to be like him and St Peter Claver.

It's good and important to remember how our spirits were shaped. Although we were carefully and deeply catechized with the aid of the Baltimore catechism, it was the people we met along the way who brought the catechism and the scriptures to life and most shaped our early spiritual lives. People living the Good News with passion and hope do more to spread the Gospel than any sermon.

Another Jesuit, Alonso de Sandoval, cared for the slaves of Columbia for forty years before St Peter Claver arrived, and it was Alonso's example that shaped and formed Peter. That Peter learned from Alonso is clear, but he took service to the slaves another step. While Alonso visited and cared for the slaves where they worked, Peter met them at the docks with medicine, water, and food. Though opposed by some of his fellow Jesuits who believed slavery was justified, Peter continued to care for and love the slaves and worked for their civil rights by preaching to slave traders and businessmen in the city square while staying in the slave quarters at night.

Today, pray for those enslaved by their fears and rage.

Whose passion for faith most helps you to live the Gospel?





Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mary's Birthday

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us.'" Mt 1:23

Birthday's are festive times, and although Mary probably didn't celebrate hers like 21st century Americans, we ought to celebrate it with real joy. Mary is the one who’s "yes" to the angel and God made possible the entrance of Jesus into history and her birthday might be a time for us to light a few candles to remember her life and her sorrows.

There are few saints who teach us more about accepting and celebrating life as it unfolds than Mary. Apparently content with her life, especially after she was promised in marriage to Joseph, her life turned upside down when she was still a young girl. A visit from an angel invited her to know God in a more intimate way than anyone before her, but this knowledge came at a great price. She would be talked about and ridiculed, forced to flee her country and family, and when she was free to return to Palestine after Herod's death, she would be faced with the awful burden of watching her son suffer and die as a common criminal.

No wonder we want to celebrate her birthday. Mary's nativity invites us to trust that even that which appears and feels like an overwhelming sorrow, will be transformed by God into hope for all peoples and all nations. Happy birthday, Mary. Thank you for showing us the path to hope in darkness.

Today, ask God for the grace to embrace whatever comes your way.

What it is about Mary that most moves you to say yes to God's path for you?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hated for the sake of the Gospel

"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man." Lk 6:22

Hate is a strong word which most of avoid. It never seems like a word or an emotion that builds life within or among us. All of us have read of people who so hated themselves because of some serious fault that they took their own lives, and while we know this makes no sense, we understand it. More important, we hear of families and nations who hate one another, and avoid contact with those they hate at all costs. Even thinking about the hated one brings deep distress.

Nevertheless, Jesus suggests that the world will, even should hate us to the point of killing us, if we live the Good News authentically. People who live for others, who oppose societies in which some are isolated because of culture, the color of their skin or their lack of education and wealth, who insist that all people are worthy of love, are hated because they are always working for justice.

Jesus was hated by the leaders of his own society because he challenged their interpretations of the law and their haughtiness towards the poor. Imagine what it was like for the leaders when he looked at them and insisted: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"  Enraged and threatened, the Pharisees plotted to kill him because he told the truth. The gospel is intended "to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...and to let the oppressed go free," (Lk 4:18) not to "lay heavy burdens" on their shoulders while doing nothing to help them. (Mt. 23:4)

Today,  ask yourself whether you are laying "heavy burdens" on others without being willing to help.

Who has been an inspiration to you because of their efforts on behalf of the poor?


Monday, September 5, 2016

Praying Before a Decision

"Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve." Lk 6:12

How should believers make decisions? That is the question posed by today's Gospel. Jesus, our model for all things Christian, says little directly about this, but offers us a clear example. By going to a mountain and spending the entire night in prayer before choosing the apostles, Jesus challenges us to do the same. It is not so much that we can or ought to spend entire nights in prayer, but that we take time away from our everyday lives in order to discern what it is God wants us to be and do.

Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, encouraged her sisters to pray beforehand about any decision they needed to make and insisted that every word of the rule they practiced was the fruit of prayer. But it is Catherine's image of prayer as a plant that continues to challenge us today. "Prayer is a plant, the seed of which must be nourished or it will die." Put another way, Jesus and Catherine might say: Water and feed the plants of your faith life with prayer if you expect them to grow.

Today, spend ten minutes more than usual in prayer.

Has prayer with a help to you in making important decisions?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sabbath Rest

"I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil." Lk 6:9

Jews have always valued the Sabbath, both as a way to remember God's gracious love of them and to observe God's laws. It is important to remember that very few societies in the ancient world had time away from work. People, especially the poor, worked everyday and rarely had time for themselves. When God rested on the seventh day, God reminded all of us to stop, celebrate and rest. The Jewish people took this example very seriously, and their strict observance of the Sabbath is testimony to this.

At the same time, Jesus, without dismissing the importance of Sabbath, challenges the rigidity of Jewish observance by asking the telling question: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? The obvious answer is yes. Not only must we do good, we must also seek to live the underlying values of the Sabbath. Rest is good and important, but seeing the struggles of the sick and suffering and responding to them is just as necessary.

The law of God should never be used as an excuse not to do good. We rest in order to remember God's love and respond to others as God did and does. There is no other way to observe the whole law and the prophets.

Today, rest completely and see how your refreshed spirit will urge you to do more good.

How do you obtain a balance in your life between work and rest?